Over the last few days, there has been much comment of the slide that was featured in the New York Times newspaper regarding the slide that Gen. Stanley A McChrystal, leader of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan was shown when took over the leadership in Afghanistan.
Gen. McChrystal was heard to comment “when we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war”.
There are far too many problems with this slide to go in to here, but here is my take on the whole debate:
PowerPoint and Keynote are tools that can be used to enhance our presentations, and can both be useful in conveying our message in a stronger and more friendly manner than by words alone. However, over the years our presentation software has become the main focus of our presentation, and that is where we are going wrong. PowerPoint and Keynote were never developed to be the main focus of the presentation. They were developed to help the presenter.
The above slide is creating news now, but I have sat through hundreds of presentation with slides similar to this one. Presentations where the text was too small and there was far too much detail in the slides. This never enhances our message, this always confuses our message and our audience will just turn off.
During the Battle of Britain in World War II, there was no PowerPoint or Keynote software, and so the British airforce used a table, with models for aircraft and a map to follow the war. This not only simplified a very complex battle, it also enabled the leaders of the war to fully understand what was happening in a clear and accurate way.
While today we may not have access to tables with maps and models, we do have access to white boards and flip charts. When we are faced with describing a very complex situation, the use of flip charts and white boards can make the explanation much easier for our audience. We must always remember, that when it comes to presenting, PowerPoint and Keynote are just one kind of tool from many different kinds. The key to a good presentation is simplicity, not detail.
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